“Don’t be defined by what you didn’t know or didn’t do. You’re deciding your life right now.”
- Meg Jay, Author of ‘The Defining Decade - Why your twenties matter’
When I read this quote from Meg Jay’s book, I found this pretty much depicts the story of Shweta Shidhore. Shweta is a passionate millennial woman born and raised in India and now lives in the U.S. At 15, she started visiting regularly the famous Jehangir art gallery at Mumbai. On her own. Traveling from suburbs by local train. This was the period of No mobile Phones! Brave Parents! From Sketching and Painting to Pottery to Poems to Photography to Calligraphy to developing board games to doing professional assignments in advertising..Phew.. she has dabbled and excelled in several forms of art, during her school and under-graduation days. What I found as a common connect was her passion to explore deeper and deeper the various forms of fine art that has helped her to kick start her career in UX design.
I believe Shweta’s story will be inspiring for many millennials across the world. Here are the highlights of the conversation I had with Shweta on her passion for UX and beyond:
Can you walk me through briefly your journey into the world of UX Design
Yes! As a child, I loved art like many other kids. So I decided I wanted to pursue this further and studied applied art. During this time, I took a course in graphic design and that’s when I fell in love with the field of design. After studying MFA in graphic design at Rochester Institute of Technology, I realized I always had the inclination to look at design from a user perspective. While working on some design projects right after grad school, I was curious to understand the reasoning behind the visually appealing digital products. So, I studied and explored UX further through books, online courses, meet-ups and conferences as well as by working on personal projects. My journey into UX design hasn’t been a completely traditional one and it involved a learning curve. It was really iterative with trial and errors, getting feedback from industry professionals and testing out ideas with real users. Now I can say confidently that I feel at home now!
I also feel lucky to have parents who supported my decision to study applied art and graphic design and encouraged me even if it wasn’t very common to pursue design as a career in India. The immense support I received from my mentors especially early in my life strengthened my decision to pursue UX design as my career of choice.
What is the one thing that you believe is important to attain mastery in UX design?
I believe it has got to do with understanding human behavior. That has been the single biggest factor that led me to the field of UX design.
Any role models in life?
No one role model in particular. Follow work of different designers and organizations.
What are your key accomplishments/ best project till date? Why?
I recently worked on a very interesting project for a portal redesign with my team at Slalom. It involved many moving pieces and required critical conversations with the key stakeholders. We were able to explore, innovate and come up with interactive design patterns to revamp the portal into a transformative experience for the client and the users. I feel very lucky to work for a company like Slalom where I get to work on such interesting projects with an amazing UX team. And I love working here as I get to learn and grow with every project.
Outside of work, I like to be involved in the design community through events and meetups. This year, I had the opportunity to organize the very first World Information Architecture Day in San Francisco. It was an amazing experience and a great success for everyone involved - the speakers, sponsors as well as the attendees. I would definitely count this as one of my key accomplishments.
How do you deal with obstacles or challenges in your career?
Consider it like swimming - you need to dive into the pool will all your heart, not hoping for any miracles. Once you are in the pool, you might start with a float, kicking your legs and flailing your hands. If you are struggling, you can ask for help or someone might see you and lend you a hand. You practice this every day in different types of pools, with different techniques and one day you won’t even realize when the float comes off and you are already swimming. So you basically overcome the obstacles by jumping right into it.
What are the key insights/ learnings from choosing ux design as your career?
For me, UX design definitely deepened my perspective on practicing empathy for others in personal life. It has broadened my perspective and understanding of people and improved my observational skills.
Where do you want to go from here?
I want to keep pushing myself in the realm of experience design. Would like to explore new technologies and eventually, would love to get involved in the strategy space.
You found your soulmate/partner and recently got married! How did it all happen?
We were friends for a long time and it just happened, I guess:)
How do you spend your free time and what is your favorite indulgence?
I love doing multiple things like photography, DIY projects, traveling and most importantly, I love animals. And if we are talking about indulging, I have to mention that chocolate cakes are my sin :)
Another quote by Meg Jay comes to my mind as I wind up the conversation with this wonderful young woman:
“Claiming your twenties is one of the simplest yet most transformative things you can do, for work, for love, for your happiness, maybe even for the world. This is not my opinion. These are the facts.”
I am sure Meg Jay will be proud of Shweta for having lived a ‘dream life’ in her 20s and she will continue to do so in her 30s, 40s and beyond!
This blog was originally published in The Huffington Post.